Use of sexual health services drops


The number of women in their 20s receiving contraception prescriptions from Well Woman clinics has declined by almost half, due to emigration and morning-after pill becoming available for sale over the counter, it has emerged.

Publishing its annual report for 2011 the Dublin Well Woman Centre said it issued 6,500 prescriptions for women between the ages of 20 and 30 in 2008. Last year that figure fell to 3,500, a decrease of 46 per cent.

Medical director Dr Shirley McQuade said the figures reflected her experiences with women attending the clinic.

“On a day-to-day basis I’m seeing patients who are going off to the UK, Canada or the US asking if their pill is available in other countries,” she said.

The decline may also be as a result of the success of the long-acting contraception Implanon which is effective for three years.

A recently published report by the Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy Study found the number of women using medium-term contraception had increased from 4.3 per cent to 12 per cent from 2003 to 2010.

Dr McQuade said many women in their 20s had “no intentions of getting pregnant” and the longer-acting contraception meant less repeat visits. 

Since March 2011, the morning after pill has been available from pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription.

It has seen a dramatic fall-off in the numbers going for emergency contraception to the clinics with the figures down from 4,000 in previous years to 800 women last year.

Chief executive Alison Begas said it was important that women continued to access emergency contraception through their clinics as these acted as a woman’s first route into sexual health services.

Despite the reduction in the overall numbers attending for contraception services, Well Woman experienced a small increase in the number of women attending from the 40 to 45 age group while the numbers attending from the 30 to 40 age group remained steady. 

The number of those attending for sexually transmitted infections (STI) screening showed a slight increase on the previous two years and was comparable to the levels attending for screening in 2006.